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Joe Battista: Star Trek Meets Pegula Ice Arena

by on March 14, 2012 6:00 AM

Last week, Marv Bevan and Lisa Berkey of the Office of Physical Plant joined me and Gene Hodge, the Pegula Ice Arena Sr. Project Manager from Mortenson Construction, for a 3-D virtual tour of the Pegula Ice Arena in the Applied Research Lab's "CAVE" (CAVE automatic virtual environment).

The Cave is a 10-foot-by-10-foot room with multiple projectors that is essentially the “Holodeck” right out of Gene Rodenberry’s "Star Trek The Next Generation."

We were hosted by Vaughn Whisker and Tim Shaw of ARL for an incredible experience of the power of today’s technology inside the Applied Research Lab on the Penn State campus.

It was one of the most awesome experiences ever getting to do a virtual 360-degree "walk around" of the Pegula facility, and I walked away with a big smile on my face at what is to come when it is completed in the fall of 2013.   

The ARL’s Synthetic Environment Applications Lab (SEA Lab) was built by the Navy, primarily for ship design, and saves millions by allowing architects and engineers a chance to "see" details for themselves in advance.

Here's a link to the Popular Mechanics story about a virtual tour of an aircraft carrier.

Coincidentally, a former high school hockey teammate of mine and PSU alum, Tim King, forwarded me a link a few days earlier to the Forbes.com article, “Five Leadership Lessons From James T. Kirk” under the heading of “Of Starships and ice rinks”.

The article begins, “Through his example, Starfleet's finest Captain has something to teach us about leadership. Here are five lessons to take on your own voyages.”

Well, that was all I had to see, and I dove in head first, as I have been a Star Trek fan since age 6 when the original series began.

I have to admit it, my wife and I are closet Trekkers. We never missed a movie and watched all the newer series shows as well. I even read the book, "All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Watching Star Trek."

For the record, my favorite Star Trek movie by far was “Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan.”  It is a perfect training video for management, leadership and implementing strategies and tactics. Gene Rodenberry was a true visionary and his futuristic world and the storylines he created helped many of us to "think outside the box” and to think about “the good of the order.”

Back to the “CAVE”; we donned our 3-D virtual reality glasses and Vaughn started the tour. While I did manage to avoid walking into any of the real CAVE walls as we “walked” around Pegula, I did inadvertently run into Lisa Berkey, hence I will lay claim to throwing the first “check” in the new arena.

I was in awe as we were able to tour almost the entire building (there are still some areas of the building that need to be coded). We could walk down steps and hallways, look into the community rink from the main concourse, read the displays of hockey history on the “Legacy Wall,” and even watch actual video playing on TV monitors while standing in line at the virtual concession stand.

I was like a little kid living out a childhood fantasy in a pretend world, but it felt so real. With the push of a button, Vaughn could “transport” us to a different part of the arena or we could simply “walk” up the grand stair case and into the club level and enter one of Pegula Ice Arena’s 14 suites.

By far the coolest part for me was standing (or in my mind, skating) on the ice, looking up at the student section where future PSU teams will shoot for the first and third periods. It already makes me feel sorry for the opposing goalies, as the students will be essentially right on top of the poor net-minder, giving us a distinct home-ice advantage, as it makes concentrating on the puck very difficult for the “sieve."

I could hear the students cheering in unison, “Hey Goalie, Hey Goalie, It’s all your fault, It’s all your fault!” We are going to have a blast in this new arena.

My thanks to Vaughn Whisker, Tim Shaw and their staff at ARL and for Joe Corvaia and the folks at Crawford Architects for making this happen.

I guarantee you will all be very excited and impressed after you see this arena upon completion in the fall of 2013.

We are building an amazing facility for Penn State and Centre County.



From ice hockey to Intercollegiate Athletics and Smeal, JoeBa has been an integral part of the Penn State and State College communities. Battista was an influential player in the effort to bring varsity ice hockey to Happy Valley. He is now Vice President of Hockey Operations for the Buffalo Sabres.
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